A pair of Blu-rays from England showcase the final works of major artists who were considered at the time to be in decline: Laurel and Hardy’s last feature, Atoll K (dir. Leo Joannon, 1951) is a bittersweet mess which captures the Boys’ enduring charm while making their mortality all too clear, while Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) comes full circle by reviving his Weimar criminal mastermind in a Cold War context which paved the way for James Bond’s high-tech thrills.
It’s a puzzling personal aberration, but I continue to find myself drawn to bad movies because they become available on disk in attractive packages. This time out, Arrow’s substantial box set of the four features in the completely disposable House franchise.
Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part three of four.
The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.
Two early films from the career of Albert Finney receive excellent releases from Indicator. Finney’s Charlie Bubbles (1968) and Stephen Frears’ Gumshoe (1971) showcase the actor’s strengths and weaknesses.
International hit men, a widescreen travelogue, Asian action, World War Two, sex with an immortal monster, the zombie apocalypse, necrophilia and interstellar space travel … another mixed bag of recent viewing.
Horror, westerns science fiction, crime, magic, demons, vampires, zombies, witches, a one-legged detective, people trapped in a deadly house, a damsel in distress and a film editor driven mad by cheap exploitation movies …
A random selection of recent viewing, from Nazi propaganda to British Angry Young Men, from classic sci-fi to the 1960s revival of a French criminal mastermind as slapstick pastiche.
Following the surprise international success of Gregory’s Girl (1980), writer-director Bill Forsyth was given greater resources by producer David Puttnam and made what on the surface was a whimsical comedy reminiscent of Ealing Studios in the ’50s; three-and-a-half decades later, the delightfully charming Local Hero (1983) can be seen as a subtly prescient warning about the most urgently pressing issues we now face – climate change and the need to find sustainable ways to inhabit the planet.
Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Ernst Lubitsch’s final completed feature, Cluny Brown (1946), presents this richly layered comic gem in a luminous 4K restoration. This underrated romantic comedy which skewers rigid British class attitudes on the eve of World War Two is one of Lubitsch’s masterpieces.